Sept. 11, 2005 — Police Commissioner Elton Lewis says there must be a greater effort by the community as a whole to assist the Police Department in its attempts to get a grip on what appears to be an escalating crime rate. "It is unfortunate that we have these homicides occurring so frequently, but I want the community to know that we are doing everything possible to bring closure to these cases," Lewis said at week's end in an exclusive interview with WVWI Radio One (AM 1000).
Lewis said the vast majority of the cases which result in murder are retaliatory in nature, usually stemming from a drug war that is prevalent in the territory. "We will continue to push forward and will pool all resources, both federal and local to assist us in this quest." Lewis also called for the public to come forward with information that will lead to the resolution of the open or unresolved cases.
At the same time, he acknowledged that the department faces its own challenges, which at times, hinder the ability of the VIPD in its overall crime-fighting effort. "It would be untruthful for me to tell you a categorically yes," Lewis said when asked whether he is confident in the department's ability to wage a successful war on the criminal element. A lack of manpower in the Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Major Crime Unit in both districts is one of the most pressing challenges, Lewis readily admitted.
At fiscal year 2006 budget hearings, Lewis laid out for senators an ambitious plan for the department going forward, but is mindful that funding is key to the solution.
"I have lobbied both the administration and the senators to fund the department to the greatest extent possible," Lewis said.
Among the items high on the wish list: the hiring of 200 police officers to be divided equally between the two island districts, Lewis said. "We have to commit ourselves to identifying the most competent recruits to bring into the ranks of the V.I. Police Department…that too is a challenge," Lewis admitted. "Personally I don't think we have the capacity or the persons within the territory that would like to join the police department," Lewis said. "Something is missing either the educational or social element or maybe we as a community just don't care anymore," he said. Lewis said he is hoping to have two police classes graduate during the fiscal year 2006, which opens on Oct.1. He said there are 20 recruits currently for each district about to enter the Police Academy.
Lewis didn't mention recruiting from off-island in Friday's interview, though it was a large part of his presentation to the Legislature.
To provide information to the V.I. police department, call the Investigation Bureau on St. Thomas at 774-2211 or 778-4950 on St. Croix. Information may also be submitted to police at the emergency number, 911.
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